Germany’s Nico Rosberg has finished first in qualifying for this year’s Monaco Grand Prix. Defending Formula One drivers' champion and fellow German Sebastian Vettel will start the race from third in the grid.
Rosberg finished just ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton on Saturday, who will start from second in the grid at Sunday's race.
This was the third consecutive pole position for the German and the fourth in a row for his Mercedes team, including Hamilton's first place in qualifying for last month's Chinese Grand Prix. It was the fourth pole position of Rosberg's career and his first in Monaco.
However, in view of how the Spanish Grand Prix turned out two weeks ago, when he also started from pole position but finished the race in sixth place, Rosberg played down expectations.
"In Barcelona we were struggling a lot in the race and I finished 70 seconds behind the winner," Rosberg said. "We're improving step by step, but there are still a lot of questions remaining. It's still our weakness."
Defending champion Sebastian Vettel, who will start from third in the grid ahead of his Australian Red Bull teammate Mark Webber, has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks. The German has seen his lead ahead of Kimi Raikkonen at the top of the Formula One driver's standings shrink to just four points, meaning the Finnish driver could claim the overall lead after Sunday's race.
Vettel's hopes were high for taking pole position following Saturday's second qualifying session, in which he posted the fastest time. However, both Mercedes drivers bettered his time in the final minute of qualifying and Vettel failed to improve upon his performance in his final lap.
"It was very close. Mercedes were very quick all weekend. We know they're quick (on a) one lap. I don't want that to sound like an excuse. There was more than a tenth (of a second) missing. If anyone is to blame, then it's me," Vettel told reporters after qualifying had been completed.
"I'm not entirely happy with my last lap but I am happy there's not a Lotus or Ferrari ahead. So therefore sitting in third I think is still a good result and should be a good opportunity to win the race," he added.
pfd/rc (dpa, Reuters, AP)